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The Comet Cycle #1

The Ninth Metal

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At first, people gazed in wonder at the radiant tear in the sky. A year later, the celestial marvel became a planetary crisis when Earth spun through the comet’s debris field and the sky rained fire.

The town of Northfall, Minnesota will never be the same. Meteors cratered hardwood forests and annihilated homes, and among the wreckage a new metal was discovered. This “omnimetal” has properties that make it world-changing as an energy source…and a weapon.

John Frontier—the troubled scion of an iron-ore dynasty in Northfall—returns for his sister’s wedding to find his family embroiled in a cutthroat war to control mineral rights and mining operations. His father rightly suspects foreign leaders and competing corporations of sabotage, but the greatest threat to his legacy might be the US government. Physicist Victoria Lennon was recruited by the Department of Defense to research omnimetal, but she finds herself trapped in a laboratory of nightmares. And across town, a rookie cop is investigating a murder that puts her own life in the crosshairs. She will have to compromise her moral code to bring justice to this now lawless community.

In this gut-punch of a novel, the first in his Comet Cycle, Ben Percy lays bare how a modern-day goldrush has turned the middle of nowhere into the center of everything, and how one family—the Frontiers—hopes to control it all.

304 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 2021

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About the author

Benjamin Percy

646 books1,097 followers
Benjamin Percy is the author of seven novels -- most recently The Sky Vault (William Morrow) -- three short fiction collections, and a book of essays, Thrill Me, that is widely taught in creative writing classrooms. He writes Wolverine, X-Force, and Ghost Rider for Marvel Comics. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), GQ, Time, Men's Journal, Outside, the Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and the Paris Review. His honors include an NEA fellowship, the Whiting Writer's Award, the Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, the iHeart Radio Award for Best Scripted Podcast, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 300 reviews
Profile Image for Book Clubbed.
146 reviews208 followers
October 14, 2021
I always want to enjoy Benjamin Percy more than I do. On a technical level, the man is impeccable. The sentences are katana-sharp, the characters drawn in vibrant color, and the genre-blending an imaginative mosaic. Really, there is a lot to admire here, and juggling this many genres is a stupendous feat, one that most authors wouldn't even bother to attempt.

However, I admire more than I enjoy, typically. I'm never fully enthralled with the story. For 278 pages, there are too many subplots for me. I can track them all, but they can't operate at the pace I want, because each one can only take up about 20% of the plotting. With so much time spent characterizing the location, characters, and backstory, Percy tries to compensate with intense blips of action, but it never cohered for me. There are a lot of quirky characters to follow, but I never felt invested in any particular one, and read through the book at a detached distance.

As a Minnesotan, I'm biased about the setting. Isn't it funny how we do it, instantly comparing any representation of our hometown or setting we know well, like we are the ultimate judge of what rings authentic or not? "Yes, that tracks with my limited experience of this random place" or "no, this is not consistent with my small life, so I will disregard all further opinions the author has."

Disclaimer aside, I did love the setting, the reflection on environmental exploitation, the "never can go home again" theme, and the dysfunctional family, an endlessly rewarding trope.
Profile Image for Dave.
3,106 reviews353 followers
December 18, 2020
"The Ninth Metal" is a trip into a speculative universe that is in one sense very recognizable and in another sense entirely unrecognizable. The book is at once science fiction, but also contains old themes of warring Hatfield and McCoys and of the prodigal son returning to his hometown, but finding himself a stranger in a strange land.

The world suddenly changed forever when meteors rained down from the sky, meteors so large that they obliterated big things, particularly in the economically distraught north Minnesota iron range. And it is there where the greatest gold rush in history takes place. Omnimetal, the Ninth metal, is more valuable than gold. It creates energy and powers trains, like the one John returns on to find mining camps everywhere and warring family compounds.

The author starts the reader slowly, developing his characters with true depth. Each of them have lived and hurt. But hang on to your hats because you have no idea what's coming. Cause everything is changing.

This is the first novel in a planned series with at least two more on the way. Bring them on. Oh, and by the way, the book is dedicated to among others, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,076 reviews550 followers
May 17, 2021
Okay, now that was an unexpectedly pleasant reading surprise: A popcorn novel that combines Western, SF, horror and thriller elements in an old-fashioned, yet surprisingly effective, manner. Think ‘Stranger Things’ combined with some of the darker and crazier ‘The X-Files’ episodes, and you’ll get a sense of what a fantastic read this is.

Also, if you enjoyed ‘The Institute’ by Stephen King, where a dastardly top-secret government organisation experiments on inculcating latent superpowers in vulnerable children, you will love this. Yet Percy’s take on the trope is a tad more ‘X-Men’ than King’s, with a good dollop of tentacular Lovecraftian cosmic menace thrown in for good measure.

Described like this, ‘The Ninth Metal’ should by all rights be a complete hodgepodge, not to mention a hot mess, but Percy’s deft characterisation and expert control of the narrative tension simply sucks the reader in. There is a lot of fun to be had in the details as well, and a vein of humour running throughout the story like the extra-solar omnimetal that is omnipresent in Minnesota itself.

I have no idea if Percy’s ‘ninth metal’ is a deliberate reference to the ‘Nth Metal’ of the DC Universe, described as “a special metal with gravity negating effects.” Of course, omnimetal does a lot more than that, and is therefore an expert nod at the many McGuffin Magic Materials that prop up so many SF novels.

Surprisingly, omnimetal is not the main focus though. We learn about the catastrophic meteor shower that deposits it on earth in brief flashback chapters, while speculation about its function and composition is just detailed enough to be convincing without derailing the propulsive main narrative with too much info-dumping. That is a common problem of SF novels of this ilk: Never let the science take the place of the story or the characters; Andy Weir and Liu Cixin, take note.

And in terms of the main narrative, it is a real corker: Two diehard and equally weird Minnesota conglomerate families (the cult is actually the normal one) go head-to-head (as well lots of other body parts) to claim exclusive rights to the miracle of omnimetal and its potential to totally transform life on Earth as we know it. And probably literally, as we suspect from the get-go. But, as in all good Pandora Box tales, getting your heart’s desire is only the beginning of a long road of unintended consequences.

Unusually for a multi-volume series, this opener ends on a real cliffhanger, yet is still complete enough for the ending to be a perfect conclusion to the overarching story. However, Percy really sets a high bar for himself at the end, so it will be intriguing to see where he takes his motley crew next when the ‘The Unfamiliar Garden’ is released early next year. Metal is!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,393 reviews4,904 followers
July 5, 2021

3.5 stars

This is the first book in the Comet Cycle Series, about the consequences of a comet passing close to the Earth.


Northfall, Minnesota was a quiet mining town until planet Earth spun through the debris field of the comet Cain.

As millions of meteorites fell to the ground, the sky flared, the ground shook, electricity went dark, radio signals scrambled, dogs howled, and people screamed. The debris landed everywhere, but Northfall got the largest deposits of a substance called 'omnimetal.'

Omnimetal has a phenomenal ability to hold and deliver energy. If you strike omnimetal, or shake it, or electrify it, it absorbs the energy, stores it, and then releases it. Omnimetal can be used to power cars, trains, planes, cell phones, and other battery-powered appliances. It can disrupt communication and transportation networks. And it can be weaponized.

Thus omnimetal is the most valuable commodity on the planet. Thousands of people rush to Northfall to dig for omnimetal or to work for mining companies.....and merchants, prostitutes, strippers, etc. follow to service the workers.

The largest miners of omnimetal are two rival companies, Frontier Metals and Black Dog Energy, both of which have elaborate excavating operations.

Both Frontier Metals and Black Dog Energy are buying up property in Northfall, and both are bidding on an area called Gunderson Woods, which has a GINORMOUS deposit of the valuable material. The competitive owners of Frontier Metals and Black Dog Energy would do ANYTHING to obtain metal-rich holdings, including bribery, coercion, blackmail, physical assault, kidnapping and murder.

To add to omnimetal's mystique, individuals who were bombarded with the material during the meteor shower and SURVIVED were radically changed. After a terribly painful adaptation, the victims became almost indestructible. In addition, they can take in, store, and give off huge amounts of energy.....glowing blue as they do so.

One schoolboy named Hawkin was transformed in this manner, and the government has him locked away in inhumane conditions for research purposes.

The main protagonist in the story is a man named John Frontier, whose family owns Frontier Metals. John was a troublemaker as a youth and left Northfall to become a better person. Now, after five years away, John returns to attend his sister's wedding.

John wants nothing to do with the family mining company, and plans to leave after the nuptials. Things don't work out that way, however, and John gets drawn into the conflict between Frontier Metals and Black Dog Energy. John also gets involved with other things in Northfall.....things that endanger his life.

The story is an action-packed sci-fi thriller with an eclectic array of characters, a touch of romance, and a superhero vibe. It's a fine beginning to the Comet Cycle series.

Thanks to Netgalley, Benjamin Percy, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers for a copy of the book.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Faith.
1,900 reviews534 followers
February 15, 2021
A comet has left deposits of a new mineral called omnimetal on Earth. The mineral is a source of power, has superior conductive ability, is addictive if smoked or snorted and has had an unusual impact on some of the people who were exposed to it. Two mineral companies are warring over control of the large omnimetal supply in Minnesota. A large deposit is controlled by a weird cult that refuses to sell. At the same time, the Defense Department is conducting extreme experiments on a 15 year old boy in order to determine exactly how useful omnimetal might be to the military.

This is the first book of a three book cycle about the comet, but the story here is complete and doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. A lot of this book was comprised of family/crime drama involving the ruthless Frontier family and their secrets. The family is more connected to omnimetal than anyone knows. There are murders, crooked cops, violent encounters and a police investigation. There are also thriller elements.

I was expecting more science fiction, however the origins and properties of omnimetal were not very well explained. In particular, there was one event involving the cult which had no basis in anything else that was described in the book. Maybe omnimetal will be fleshed out more in the next book. I am intrigued enough to want to read it.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
June 18, 2021
This is an unexpectedly pleasant mix of backwoods good-ole-boys with all their country poverty and an SF-tainted goldrush.

In most respect, the novel is entirely about the characters, their hopes and fears, their sense of belonging, or their need to find justice or even exploit the hell out of people's weaknesses. It's about being a fish out of water. Of coming home to a place that doesn't want you any longer. It's also about the complete and ugly transformation of your home once the sharks smell blood.

And it's also something of a gritty origin story for people with superpowers. But that takes a serious back seat to everything else. Because let's face it, economics rules everything. The rest of us are just trying to survive.

There's a lot of familiar things in this novel. It could very well be a contemporary fiction piece if it wasn't for the SFnal elements that drive the force of everyone's motivations. And the idea of a super-natural meteorite bringing tons of change isn't exactly new, either, but when we put them together, it's a pretty fascinating social commentary and thriller in its own right.
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
266 reviews79 followers
January 31, 2021
3.5*s. I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of this book; I felt rather let down by the last third. It was the character building that won me over and the world-building that lost me. There was huge potential for change and transformation, but we only see a little and hear of a little more. Perhaps this is something Percy will build upon in the next book. I'd be tempted to read it.

'Take one look and you think you're in a piny postcard advertising Vactionland. Blink a few times and you realise you're in the middle of an alien-ore geopolitical crisis.'

A new gold-rush has come to America, a meteor shower depositing a new metal - omnimetal or the ninth metal - on Minnesota, taking the state from backwater sticks to boomtown. With each gram worth millions, those who own the land are in the money and two companies - local Frontier Metal and Texan Black Dog Energy - are ready to cash in.

"There's a fight going on here. A fight for Northfall, guess you could say. You properly already got a sense of that. It's like Deadwood downtown. It's like the gold rush meets the oil rush meets the height of the steel boom in the Iron Range. It's fucking bananas. Forget the Wild West. This is the Wild North. [...] Northfall's ours - right, Johnny? It always has been. The Frontiers have kept his place alive as long as we've been alive."

John Frontier thought he'd got out of the rat race when he left Minnesota five years ago, but he's been lured back by a family wedding and his family are determined to make him stay. I thought I understood John - the good son of a poisonous family who manages to get up and get out - I was wrong. And then I was wrong again, and again and again. Percy delights in sprinkling just enough clues for you to lead yourself astray and then gently (and not so gently) showing you the error of your ways. I loved it. I never knew quite who to root for or what would happen next.

Alongside John, we hear from from a number of other characters. His old sweetheart, who stuck with him through thick and thin and then remarried when he abandoned her; Stacie Toal, a local policewoman who's beginning to realise the police might not be the peacekeepers she always imagined them to be; Victoria, a physics professor hired by the Department of Defence to investigate the new metal and who's now in over her head; Yesno, the foster son of Ragnar Frontier who will do anything to help; and more. To start, we're given a new point of view with each chapter and I was surprised by how well it worked. Percy has a wonderful way of describing people, focusing on a character's more unusual traits and so giving us a far more rounded impression of the character as a whole. It reminded me a little of Maggie Stiefvater's writing in this regard.

'It wasn't the apocalypse, but it was a taste of it.'

With a new metal to play with, this book could have gone far and in all sorts of directions. It started well with a bullet train and then just gave up on wider world-building and resigned itself to being a turf-war with some superhero elements and suggestions of the extraterrestrial. We're told again and again the value of the metal and its possibilities but all they seem to do with it is smoke it or wear it as jewellery (Hawkin, of course, aside, but I'll be spoiling it if I say more). It felt like a waste.

And then the end. Whilst the start felt nicely understated and reasonably realistic, the book gets more and more over the top and unlikely as it goes. The end felt rushed, with new elements introduced and whole scenes (which I'd consider pretty key) just skimmed over. All of a sudden, Percy's history of comic-book writing became clear.

Overall, I thought the book was well-written, with some fantastic twists that kept me turning the page. It's not as dark as I was expecting it to be and I was grateful for that. Will I read the next book? Maybe.

You might like this if you like:
Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1) by Sylvain Neuvel Steelheart (The Reckoners, #1) by Brandon Sanderson Seveneves by Neal Stephenson Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
Profile Image for Charles.
516 reviews83 followers
May 14, 2023
In a Comet of Doom , Green Rocks (The Ninth Metal), Government Conspiracy , Redemption Earns Life and New Old West (in Minnesota) cross-over two mutants find peace. First book in the The Comet Cycle continuing series.

The Ninth Metal

My audiobook was 10 ½ hours long. It had a US copyright of 2021. A dead tree version would be about 300-pages.

Benjamin Percy is an American novelist, comic book writer and screenwriter. He has six novels published including this one. This is the first book in the author's The Comet Cycle Series, of which there are now three books. This is the first book of any type I’ve read by this author.

Julia Whelan was the narrator. Whelan is a good narrator that can ably change her voice with the characters internal and external narrative. However, there were a lot of characters.

TL;DR Synopsis

This story started out well and ended poorly. It was chock-full of science fiction and mystery tropes. None of them were very original. It was too melodramatic and pretentiously written. It contains a lot of pop culture and historical infodumps. Its use of too many POVs in a short 300-pages hollowed-out the characters. Prose was a little bit lumpy and plotlines were a tangle. Finally, this is a work of serial fiction intended to eventually support the author into his dotage.

The Review

The best part of this story was the Prologue. A comet called Cain, passes Earth. In a neat twist, a year later the Earth passes through a debris field from the comet. There is a near-apocalyptic, Magic Meteor shower that seeds the Earth with a vast amount of Omnimetal. Omnimetal is Green Rocks. It has magical powers. It can Mutate a human into a super human, it powers technology that "makes the trains run on time" and if you cook-it and smoke it you’ll eventually be raptured by space aliens.

Most of the story takes place in a boomtown in Northern Minnesota on the edge of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness. The town had an exceptionally large deposit of omnimetal. It was a cross between Deadwood and an American heartland Fracking Boom Town. This ingot of world building was good. The author had a good grasp of Northern Minnesota and Minnesotans. I also didn't really mind the Treehugger nature loving theme it introduced. That's because, going canoeing in the Boundary Waters has been on my bucket list, since I dated a woman from Minnesota as a callow youth.

The story corroded from there.

The author chose to use a multiple POV approach. There were too many. Sharing what would have been only 300-pages between: rich boy, ronin, mutant John Frontier; physicist Victoria Lennon; rookie, cop Stacie Toal; mutant, comic book loving, Hawkin Gunderson; and John’s love interest from High School, waitress Jennifer meant none of them received enough words to anneal. There was also a surfeit of: Red Shirts; evil, land-raping business men; NPCs; and the obligatory Mad Scientist (working for the Government) with his own POV.

The author’s prose was good, but uneven. Dialog was good. (You can expect that from a screenwriter turned author.) There were several amusing turns-of-phrase, if you know anything about Minnesota or Minnesotans. “buffalo plaid-wearing, loon-loving Lutherans” brought a laugh. However, in places descriptions were saccharine and overly wrought. The author gilds the lily on his descriptions. For example, was it essential to know Physicist Victoria suffered from Plantar fasciitis when she does no running in the story? In contrast his action scenes are pleasantly sparse.

Plotting and pacing were rough. The story was about two families, the Gundersons and the Frontiers, both with mutates and a great wrong between them. It was overly dramatic. It relied too heavily on sympathy toward the plight to children to pluck the reader's heartstrings. It shifted POV too quickly between the characters with an ungainly number of: flashbacks, back story, and parallel plots. The author’s favorite way of terminating a plot line, was to kill all the supporting characters involved in violent action.

There was also a lode of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll in the story. Sex was not graphic, but titillating in its variety. It was also all heterosexual. Folks smoked Space Dust made from omnimetal, as well as partaking in more terrestrial soft and hard core drugs, including alcohol. There were several amusing Classic Rock and Country music references.

The violence and gore in this book was vivid, but not graphic. Note this story includes violence against women and minors. In addition, human subordinate characters who took physical punishment, didn’t get right up. Kudos to the author for the description of concussed and thoroughly beat-up characters "hurting" for several pages. The mutates were nigh invulnerable.

I had a hard time finding any technical errors, except maybe the author's understanding of The Law. He should have been aware of the right of Habeas Corpus and U.S. rights to privacy? For example, Lennon's 'employment contract' a key element of her character's plight was both illegal and unenforceable. It made her an accessory in child kidnaping and torture that could have resulted in death. The paramilitary, firearms usage was correct. Although, use of explosives and detonators was a bit overdone. (Bricks or C4 get thrown around like firecrackers.) Most of the surveillance and computer tech felt correct. However, omnimetal and omnimetal infused humans were magical. The laws of physics went out the omnimetal portal where they were concerned. I did have to laugh at the Mad Scientist’s giant, laser-lit, omnimetal cutting, anti-mutant, “wizard blade”, which was more of a weaponized chainsaw. The phallic aspects of the tool were unexploited.

Finally, the story had a somewhat happy ending for the main characters, which sets-up for the next book in the series. There are currently three books in the series. The 2nd and 3rd were released almost simultaneously shortly after this one. It makes me wonder why the overall plot couldn't be captured in fewer books?

I went along for the ride with this story not knowing where it was going. I could see it was going to have a happy ending, I just didn’t know how many and which plotlines would carry on into the next book. The story was OK, but not sophisticated or original enough for me to want to become invested in the series. What's annoying, is that with some work, it could have been better. For example, half the number POVs and more original riffs on the chosen tropes could have been used. I’m not going to be reading the next book in the series The Unfamiliar Garden . Life’s too short, and there are better books out there to be reading.
Profile Image for Kev.
135 reviews14 followers
April 3, 2021
A superhero origin story in disguise as a rough family drama.

Only, the superheroes are more anti-hero. There's really no likeable characters in this book. John, arguably, the main character is a murderer and his family is basically the local mafia. Stacie, the rookie cop, is a wholesome character but is changed by the events of the book. Victoria basically tortures a kid "for science" but knows it's wrong and wants to free him. There are other characters that come and go, all are driven to extremes because of the gold-rush atmosphere after a meteor crashes into their town and leaves masses of a new metal that has world-changing properties.

Speaking of the meteor - it's like if the vibranium meteor from the Marvel movie Black Panther crashed in Minnesota instead of Wakanda. The metal has many properties similar to that comic book metal, at least as portrayed in the MCU movies.

Hints sprinkled throughout the story indicate there may be more to the metal than just as a power source and creation of superheroes. Lovecraftian dreams, portals to elsewhere are just a part of the subtle world-building I hope is explored deeper in the sequel. I didn't realize this was the first book in a series until I looked it up on Goodreads. I'm intrigued enough by the world-building to read the sequel when it comes out.

Review eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Andreas.
482 reviews139 followers
June 3, 2021
Synopsis: Earth crossed a comet’s debris field and down came wondrous omnimetal which is a perfect energy source but can also be consumed as a drug.

The story follows John Frontier, heir to a iron-mining dynasty in Minnesota. He returns for his sister’s wedding and finds his family in a cutthroat war for mining rights.

The other protagonist is physicist Victoria Lennon who works for the Department of Defense to research omnimetal. In this case, a living one, as a boy has been covered with the metal and developed super hero abilities.

Lastly, a newbie cop investigates a murder in her off-time and comes across corruption in her department.

Review: This novel is a cross-over of super hero prequel and Wild West story. I expected something more SF, something technical. But it wasn’t about those aspects at all.

The whole omnimetal trope is just a layer over the Wild West content, featuring gang wars, exploiting mining corporations, corrupt cops, all set in a backwater city. While enjoyable as such, I’d say the crossover idea didn’t catch roots and I’d rather have read a plain Western, featuring moral choices, family loyalty, and strong characters.
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,255 reviews297 followers
June 6, 2021
First in the new series THE COMET CYCLE by acclaimed author Benjamin Percy, THE NINTH METAL (release June 1, 2021) is an expansive work of very near-future SciFi, Speculative Fiction of high order. I applaud the Science, the Speculation, the character evolution and devolution. Additionally Mr. Percy performs some seriously Lovecraftian rifts hinting at potential Cosmic Horror, through Portals [question: do you REALLY want to walk through that doorway?] and even a Stonehenge similarity (and oh, the outcome of that one!) Family Dysfunction maximized; greed and cupidity; wealth vs. abject poverty; all the replay of the 20th century's growth of Corporations, squeezing out the workers, the farmers, the small landowners of inherited property, destruction of environment, ramped up to a new extreme by the discovery of the new element "deposited" by meteors: omnimetal. And we must not forget the governmental/military complex's rush to weaponize: Super Soldiers indeed. The nightmare of the 20th century, altering humans into unstoppable weapons of warfare, is now on the horizon.

THE NINTH METAL is simply outstanding, as is its sequel (release January 2022), THE UNFAMILIAR GARDEN.
Profile Image for Lisa Wolf.
1,653 reviews203 followers
June 11, 2021
In The Ninth Metal, the first book in the new trilogy The Comet Cycle by Benjamin Percy, what starts as a beautiful phenomenon turns into a planet-changing event. As the Cain Comet passes by Earth, people everywhere gaze at this once-in-a-lifetime sight. But a year later, the Earth’s orbit takes it through the debris field trailing the comet, and suddenly, life on Earth is permanently changed.

The book only hints at the global implications and the variety of natural disasters that occur in the wake of this event. Instead, The Ninth Metal restricts its focus to the town of Northfall, Minnesota — a dying mining town whose riches have been dwindling, until the debris strike bombards the area with meteors containing a previously unknown element. Known as omnimetal, this ninth metal has properties that science can barely begin to understand.

But one thing is clear. Omnimetal has huge energy-storage and generating abilities, and suddenly, Northfall is once again a boomtown. As the book opens, it’s been five years since the arrival of omnimetal. The population of Northfall has exploded, and a power grab is underway between two massively wealthy energy companies, each of which wants to control the resources completely.

Frontier is the locally based company, run by the powerful Frontier family, but they’re threatened by the encroachment of Black Dog Energy, a Texas oil firm that’s willing to use any means necessary to control the world’s supply of omnimetal.

Meanwhile, a group of cult-like worshippers smoke and snort ground-up omnimetal, living in a sort of trance with eyes glowing blue, celebrating the omnimetal’s powers and becoming wraithlike addicts with a religious devotion. And in a facility so secret that it’s not on any map, a Department of Defense research facility carries out inhumane experiments in the name of science and national security, trapping two unwilling participants in a never-ending, escalating series of tests and trials.

The Ninth Metal is small in scope, in that it’s centered completely on the area in and around Northfall. Yet we also get hints that the entire world has been changed in incomprehensible ways, as characters hear or repeat stories about weird things happening around the globe.

At times, the corporate warfare between Frontier and Black Dog reads like something out of Dallas, with competing conglomerates trying to gobble up the resources (and the power and the money) all for themselves, relying on threats, extortion, violence, and outright murder to get what they want.

But also, The Ninth Metal is top-notch speculative fiction, taking small town USA and injecting it with powerful forces beyond human comprehension, turning daily life on its head and bringing unknowable powers into what was once a quiet, dull, ordinary little place.

The characters are varied and interesting, from the members of the Frontier family to the local rookie cop to the young boy who just wants his freedom. The plot is compact and fast-paced, and between heists and kidnappings and bombings and the weird uses of omnimetal, there’s never a dull moment.

And hey — the evil science labs and secret experiments totally gave me a Stranger Things vibe!

I love that the trilogy of The Comet Cycle will be published on such a tight schedule, with the next two books already scheduled for publication in 2022.

From what I understand, the 2nd book (and presumably the 3rd as well?) tells a different story about the comet’s affect on Earth, focusing on different characters, a different setting, and a new set of potentially deadly circumstances. I am so there for it! I absolutely want to continue these books, and will be waiting eagerly for #2, The Unfamiliar Garden.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. Full review at Bookshelf Fantasies.
Profile Image for Wendy Wagner.
Author 89 books152 followers
August 28, 2021
If you're as old as I am, you remember when the animated Batman show first launched on Fox, and the animators explained that the difference between their show and every other show on tv was that they were drawing on black cels instead of white ones?

Well, THE NINTH METAL is a novel, but it is drawn on black cels in every sense of the word. It's like Benjamin Percy crushed an issue of Batman, rolled it up in a crazy, Lovecraft-inspired SF universe, and jammed it into a Minnesota snowman. It's dark AF. It's exciting AF. And it's full of characters you kind of feel bad about liking, but damn if they're not likeable.

It's a fantastic, exciting, FUN read. I can't wait for the sequel!
Profile Image for Cedricsmom.
250 reviews2 followers
August 18, 2021
That was a pretty good read! This from someone who reads one sci fi title a year. I think I was able to stay engaged with the story because there was no world building to negotiate. All the action happens in the north woods of Minnesota. There aren’t any space aliens, just regular messed up humans and a few hapless under dogs. And oh yes, the ninth rare metal called Omni metal. Every one wants a piece of that. A few plot points were wrapped up neatly but I enjoyed the ride. With 2 more books in the series, there’s plenty of time for things to get complicated. “Metal is!”
Profile Image for Ben.
Author 6 books421 followers
October 7, 2022
Nothing too original about the concept -- magical metal meteorites create superheroes and super villains when they hit people -- but the writing is really solid and elevates it to something more than I expected. Suffers from silliness at times (I'm thinking of a scene involving a wedding dress and a baseball bat, among others), but ultimately it's tight and interesting and enjoyable. I'll read the sequels.
Profile Image for Mike Finn.
1,225 reviews36 followers
July 14, 2021
I picked up 'The Ninth Metal', a Science Fiction book that looks at what happens when the Earth moves the path of debris from a comet and is hit by large numbers of meteors made of a ninth inert metal with some game-changing attributes, because it was recommended by Stephen King.

I can see now why he might have done that. Like his own work, it's original but still linked to a world we all understand. It follows multiple characters, is packed with plot twists and compelling 'what if?' possibilities and it kept me wanting to turn the pages.

What I liked most about it was that Benjamin Percy took me on a perfectly choreographed wild ride that constantly surprised me. The man is a magician, a master of misdirection.

The story starts with two shootings on the night when meteor after meteor ripped through the sky and tore into the land of a rural area. You know the meteor strikes, the shootings and the survivors are important but you don't know why. Then Percy, magician that he is, makes you forget all of them for now and gets you to concentrate on a scene that pulls you in with its simplicity and a familiarity that lets you think you know where this book is going. That maybe you've already seen the movie.

Percy focuses on a lone soldier with medals on a chest, coming home on a train. He is the prodigal eldest son, estranged from his powerful family, especially his almost legendary father, returning to the small town his family has dominated for generations, to attend his sister's wedding.

He's a quiet man in a loud environment. To those who look closely, his stillness suggests control rather than passivity. Then you learn that the small town is now a boomtown for mining the ninth metal and his noisy fellow passengers are all on their way to make their fortune. When you discover that his family's dominance over the town is being challenged by a vulgar, violent, arrogant carpetbagger from Texas, you think you know where this is going.

But you don't and you won't. You'll be fooled and misdirected and every time the plot shifts everything will be different but it will always make more sense. And where you end up and who you're with when you get there, well that's nothing like the book you thought you were in when you first saw that soldier riding the train home.

This is a Science Fiction thriller and there's a lot in it about what the ninth metal does and how it does it and how it will transform energy, transport and weaponry but I thought much of the power of the story came from how it drew on four very recognisable American traits.

First, there is the American cultural foundation stone that holds as a self-evident truth that in a gold rush/ oil rush / land rush, all laws are set aside while the strong fight and kill to get rich. This isn't a country where the State would declare that it owned all the ninth metal deposits and would license its exploitation for the benefit of all citizens. This is a country where you head out to grab what you can while you can and the devil take the hindmost. This is the Yukon. This is the robber barons building railways and shooting at and sabotaging the opposition. This is the real American Dream.

The second is the way cults flourish in America as the lost and the discarded seek purpose and meaning and rebirth through something larger than themselves. Here we get the Metal Eaters, addicted to consuming ninth metal dust that changes their consciousness in a way that they explain only by saying 'Metal is'.

Then there is the acceptance as natural that one family in a region can, over generations, if they are ruthless enough, acquire enough wealth and power to become almost unassailable and can then present themselves as the local good guys fighting off the out-of-State carpetbaggers. They are seen as part of the answer, not the cause of the problem.

Finally there is the deeply ingrained belief that the Federal government will countenance torture, extreme rendition and well-funded black ops if they think the stakes are high enough or perhaps just if they think that they can get away with it.

Percy weaves these threads into new patterns, constantly making the reader reassess what they thought they knew.

I liked the tone of 'The Ninth Metal'. It read like the text version of the very best graphic novels: packed with vivid images, rapid violence and dramatic 'ah ha' moments of revelation.

i recommend abandoning moderation when you consume this book. It's for gulping, not sipping. If you can, plan time for the binge read that will inevitably follow once you start the book. Take breaks if the tension gets to you or when you need to re-orient yourself after one of the 'I didn't see that coming' moments when the plot twists and tilts beneath you like a fairground ride.

This is the first book in the series but its also a full novel in its own right. There were no cliff-hanger endings here but it was also clear that the story is far from over. Everything changed the night the meteors screamed through the sky and I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

I listened to the audiobook version of 'The Ninth Metal' which I thought was well done. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

Profile Image for Adrian Dooley.
376 reviews111 followers
June 8, 2021
An enjoyable if somewhat flawed romp.

You’ve read the spiel. The earth passes through the debris field of a comet which results in huge meteor showers. These comprise of what is eventually called the ninth metal -omnimetal. With super conductive powers, it is a new source of energy that will change the world forever. Huge deposits lan in Minnesota and what was once a small mining town suddenly becomes the centre of a modern day gold rush.
It also can be ground down and used as a highly addictive drug and has a cult following who worship its arrival.
Throw in a scientist with a conscience experimenting with people who were directly exposed to the initial impacts and may have superpowers, along with two superpowers in the mining industry fighting for control of the omnimetal supply and you have a lot to take in.

There’s a huge mount to enjoy in this book. Despite having many story arcs, it hangs together very well and is extremely easy to follow. It’s a mixture of sci-fi, thriller, western and superhero story with, surprisingly the sci-fi part possibly the least explored.

It does kind of get itself twisted in knots a little towards the final third and there is a little sense of dissatisfaction at the end. The whole cult that worships omnimetal is never really fleshed out and explored for a start and many of the story arcs feel a little unfinished.

Also one of the main characters in the book is totally unbelievable and two dimensionally written to th epoint of distraction.

There’s a huge amount crammed into the 300 odd pages and maybe that adds to the feeling of dissatisfaction. All the information is nicely told and explained. It’s just too many things just felt touched on rather than fleshed out. It ends up being a bit of a mish mash of bits and pieces that are there to get to the end of the story rather than add real weight.

Still misgivings aside, this was a fun read. I believe this is the first of a trilogy and I will certainly be hoping to pick up the next instalment when it is released.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC.
Profile Image for Geonn Cannon.
Author 106 books163 followers
June 30, 2021
A scifi gold rush, and the effects it would have on a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Very, very violent and bloody, and I feel like the Evil Scientist character was a little over the top (his name was Thaddeus, for crying out loud) but taken as a comic book-inspired scifi drama, it definitely pays off.
Profile Image for Lesley.
1,808 reviews11 followers
January 3, 2022
A sci-fi book with political intrigue and family drama. Percy weaves a great multi-genre story here with vivid characters where good and bad don't really matter. A lot of set up happened here but also a lot of conclusions. I'm looking forward to what the next installment has in store.
Profile Image for Victoria.
954 reviews8 followers
August 9, 2022
I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this but it turned out I really did

This is like the Wild West but with a new metal instead of gold. This was a very interesting tale with some very interesting characters. I see its the beginning of a new series and I will be excited to see what happens next
395 reviews2 followers
May 3, 2022
Great book to listen to while walking.
Profile Image for Misha.
750 reviews8 followers
January 25, 2022
descriptors/appeals/themes: SF thriller, character-driven, morally gray characters, shifting POVs, third person, plot-driven, superhero abilities, murder, family, Minnesota, grief, redemption
Profile Image for Roberta (Always Behind).
518 reviews10 followers
May 27, 2022
My husband and I listened to this audio book during the times we were in the car together. We attended his book event at the Savannah Book Festival.
Profile Image for Rhiannon Johnson.
835 reviews249 followers
October 25, 2021
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


If you would have asked me before I read this novel if I wanted to read an X-men-like origin novel about humans being transformed by a space material crashing to Earth, I would have firmly answered "no." However, I loved Benjamin Percy's The Dead Lands and now, after reading this The Ninth Metal, I'm firmly invested in The Comet Cycle series. There is warring between and within families, a town cult, government experiments, police drama, and political power plays all set within a modern-day gold rush. Multiple subplots would make this a great option for a television series. I especially loved honest and determined policewoman Stacie Toal and can't wait to see where her storyline leads in future installments.

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Profile Image for Gabe.
10 reviews
June 9, 2021
I have liked everything I've read by Ben Percy but this is exceptional! I'll avoid spoilers because I loved how well the story unfolded. This story takes place in northern Minnesota and it's obvious Percy really focused on getting every single detail correct without getting bogged down (so readers can savor them or just continue with the compelling story). I'm really excited for later releases of this series but the Ninth Metal stands well on its own. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Joan.
2,559 reviews23 followers
May 15, 2021
Review of Advance Uncorrected Proof

A comet streaking through the sky leaves a debris field that creates a crisis for Northfall, Minnesota. As the planet spun through the debris, meteors rained down. And when there were no more, there was omnimetal left behind to create a modern-day gold rush. Omnimetal proved to be an amazing energy source . . . and an unimaginable weapon.

Soon the ruthless Frontier family is embroiled in a cutthroat war to control the mineral rights and mining operations for omnimetal. After five years away, John Frontier returns home for his sister’s wedding, only to find lawless corporations vying for control amid sabotage and nightmarish secret experiments. Will he be able to stop the murders, the crooked cops, and the violence?

First in the author’s comet trilogy, the story works well as a stand-alone, with no cliffhangers [although it is clear that there is more to come in the story]. The characters, however, were mostly unlikable as they fought for control of the exotic metal. Some plot twists and unexpected revelations kept the pages turning.

The largest disappointment is that the omnimetal, which lies at the heart of the story, remains unexplained; perhaps its origin will play a role in future books in the series. Despite this, there’s a lot for readers to appreciate in this suspenseful science fiction tale of extraterrestrial material, human greed, and family dynamics.


I received a free copy of this eBook from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Mariner Books and NetGalley
#TheNinthMetal #NetGalley
113 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2020
My thanks to Netgalley for sending me a ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is great!! I confess that I had never heard of Benjamin Percy before reading this book, but he is clearly a very talented and creative writer. While this is definitely a Sci-Fi and fiction book, it also has an element of realism at its core that helped ground it for me, and made it far more enjoyable. The characters were very well written and believable. I particularly enjoyed the complicated family dynamics that the author explores and the constant moral grey area that virtually every character finds themselves in at some point. There are also several twist and turns in this book that surprised me, and kept me hooked the whole way. If I had one criticism, it would be that I wish more of the mysteries explored in this book were explained. While I fully understand that this is book 1 of a series, and it wouldn't do to give too much away to soon, I still wish more would have been revealed about the deeper mysteries hinted at in this book. If anything I simply wish the book was longer! I devoured it in one day, and now I just want more. This is always the mark of a good author in opinion. This book is well deserving of it's 5 star review and I cant wait for the next book in the series to find out what happens next.

Profile Image for TraceyL.
990 reviews133 followers
August 5, 2021
Meteorites fall to earth, changing the landscape and giving some people super powers. This is mostly a story about a small town and its residents trying to deal with a boom in population and businesses when corporations set up to mine the new 9th noble metal which fell from space, and seems to be able to help humanity in countless ways. Shady government facilities also pop up to test the metal, and the people affected by it.

The world building was great and I look forward to reading the second book in the series, which has different characters in a different part of the US. I do think the character development was a bit lacking, so I hope that improves.
1,714 reviews3 followers
June 25, 2021
Trite plot about an asteroid somehow plummeting to earth but not leaving a crater, some splashes around like magic material, and part ends up underground where mining is needed. Add to that a bunch of standard characters straight out of central casting: Alienated, previously bad now almost noble sibling, artistic, wasted sibling, mean, nasty sibling, a-hole patriarch, noble depressed scientist, amoral scientist and more. In case you haven't figured it out, this is mediocre it should be avoided.
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